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    Georgian MPs move to toughen public meetings rules, move parliament to Kutaisi

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    The Georgian parliament voted to move the country's government center from Tbilisi to the city of Kutaisi some 220 kilometers to the west and approved amendments to the law on public meetings restricting the rights of demonstrators in the first reading on Tuesday.

    The Georgian parliament voted to move the country's government center from Tbilisi to the city of Kutaisi some 220 kilometers to the west and approved amendments to the law on public meetings restricting the rights of demonstrators in the first reading on Tuesday.

    The amendments to the country's constitution approved in the first reading stipulate that the Georgian parliament should be moved from Tbilisi to the city of Kutaisi some 220 kilometers to the west in the first reading on Tuesday.

    Under the bill, which was approved in a 106-1 vote, the Georgian parliament should move to Kutaisi after parliamentary elections in November 2012.

    "In line with these changes, Tbilisi is losing the function of [Georgia's] political center, that's why the question becomes relevant where the Georgian capital will be," Georgi Targamadze, the leader of the parliamentary minority, said during debates on the bill.

    Akaky Bobokhidze, the project's initiator, replied by saying that there was nothing extraordinary in having two capitals like in "many countries."

    Levan Vepkhvadze, a member of the Christian Democrats faction, suggested that government structures should also be moved to Kutaisi.

    "If the legislative body is in Kutaisi and the government in Tbilisi, the parliament will lose control over executive authorities," he said.

    In line with the amendments to the law on demonstrations, such demonstrations should not be held within a 20-meter distance from court and police buildings, detention centers and prosecutor's offices, as well as military buildings, railroad stations, airports and other transportation hubs.

    Participants in demonstrations would also be prohibited by law to block highways and railroads and to carry firearms and other weapons, as well as alcohol drinks. Those violating the law would face criminal prosecution.

    The bill was approved in a 98-2 vote.

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